RECOVERING FEES IN A CLIENT COLLECTION CASE
Gerald G. Knapton
Mr. Knapton is a senior partner at Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley, who has reviewed far in excess of $3.5 billion dollars in legal fees. He was one of the principal drafters of the State Bar’s sample retainer agreements.
Family-owned business litigation and family law are among the more emotionally intense kinds of practices so it is not too surprising that these also generate many client complaints about legal fees that are paid to the other side or are owed to their own lawyers. Having to chase former clients for unpaid fees is one of the least pleasant aspects of practicing law, but it can be a good training ground for a firm’s younger lawyers. However, this work may well be non-compensable because of the so-called American Rule (see C.C.P §1021) that governs attorney’s fees, not to mention the case law on what can be recovered when a law firm keeps collection matters in house.
Any firm that wants to handle its collection cases internally and still get paid for the effort needs to consider a revision to its client engagement letters.